Downers Grove, Illinois – Community High School District 99 was awarded a $249,000 grant to expand its approach to advance health equity, student wellness and mental health support. The federal funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act to aid post-pandemic mental health services for young people. District 99 was one of 40 grant recipients across the state; $9.5 million, including $500,000 in state funds, was awarded to schools, hospitals, health departments and colleges.
“Supporting the mental health of our students is more important now than ever, given the negative and continuing impact of the pandemic,” said District 99 Superintendent Dr. Hank Thiele. “This funding recognizes the need and supports the action we need to take.”
District 99, with the support of the Regional Offices of Education will use the funding to launch District 99 CARES (Community Advocacy, Resilience, Engagement and Supports). The program will be a multifaceted approach to eliminate barriers to mental health care by providing mental health services to students and families at no cost.
“In addition to creating equitable access to mental health resources, this new program will ease the stigma that often comes with seeking help,” said District 99’s Assistant Superintendent for Special Services Scott Wuggazer. “We’ll be able to better serve at-risk students by connecting them to after-school and weekend counseling sessions.”
The CARES Community Clinics will be staffed by Illinois licensed mental health professionals facilitated by ReferralGPS with practice locations near the schools. The CARES Community Clinics will offer mental health treatment sessions after school hours, including evenings and weekends, and be staffed by licensed clinicians, providing no-cost 50-minute sessions. The service will be private, and student’s personal information will not be shared with District 99 or its schools.
In order to eliminate barriers to care, students will have the option to participate in telehealth sessions with the practices or visit the practice location outside of the school day. This flexibility accounts for the notion that while some families may prefer telehealth, others may prefer in person visits in a clinical setting. Regardless of the venue, students participating in District 99 CARES will be offered no-cost treatment sessions.
The service is expected to begin after the first of the year.